Chapter 6:

Mr. Alamo Pt. 1

RICKET! RICKET! RICKET! RICKET!

CLANK!

Steve dropped his ratchet and sighed a combination of exhaustion and relief as he tinkered and tuned his freshly returned Nomad. Steve's mechanical steed/ home on wheels was a modified Chevrolet Nomad with various muscle-car parts accumulated and assimilated throughout the years before his partners in crime entered the picture. The whole body was red with a black top and race stripes streaking the hood of the vehicle. A revved up engine penetrated and protruded from the hood. The interior was black leather and, therefore, covered with blankets and seat covers temporarily for protection and prevention of hot leather. A wifi router made the car a hot spot in the most remote of regions. The console had a variety of extensions for computers and gadgets of all kinds and solar panels, stored in the trunk when not in use, gave Team Jigoku the advantage of alternate power when the battery died or they shut the car off.

Parts lay scattered under the car and oil stained the pavement. Steve had been making tweaks and fixes on the car all day. The Armenian mechanic shop had tried to "fix" his beloved Nomad. Steve paid for the alternator and chose to do his own work once again. The new part was installed first. And then Steve spent the rest of his time screwing, changing, and aligning anything else that seemed out of place. A hard day's work. But tending to his "home" was a labor of comfort and security.

Asuka sat in the semi-peaceful comforts of Team Jigoku's temporary home. Rei watched some shows on Steve's laptop and ate some nachos while Steve inspected the finally-returned Nomad with its new parts. Rei returned the rental Prius when Steve gave the OK to do so. Goliath slept through the morning, as usual.

It started when Rei was watching an episode of some sort of anime series. Then a window appeared, requesting a conference from Eugene Masters. Rei immediately paused the show and clicked "Confirm".

Eugene Masters appeared via webcam in his usual attire of a three-piece suit and transitional glasses that stayed dark nearly all the time. His mouth creased in the normal warmth but felt too urgent for a smile.

"Ah, good morning Team Jigoku."

"Good Morning, Eugene. What's up?"

"Your next ranked battle has been arranged."

"Already? That was fast." Rei remarked.

"Yes, but there is a catch with this one."

Asuka inquired, "What is the catch?"

"Your current upper-rank is being investigated for rogue activity." Eugene informed them.

"Who is he?"

"The target's name is Harry Danvers, also known as Mr. Alamo. He's currently residing in the outskirts of Austin. He was once a bounty hunter working for the local authorities as well as the UAA but Agents have spotted him doing business with local organized crime, biker gangs to be more specific."

Eugene sent the pictures of the file.

Rei asked Eugene, "So he's under investigation for organized crime?"

"Among other things. Our intelligence tells us that he may be dealing crystal meth with the local biker gang, the Steel Bastards, as well as killing for the associated syndicates. He is not yet officialy deemed a rogue. The process has not been complete. If you reach Austin and dispatch Alamo before the UAA officially brand him, you will become #12 of the Texas Top 20. If he is deemed a rogue before you reach him, the kill will still be rewarded, however, someone of a slightly higher score will take your title."

"Someone else? Who?"

"There is someone transferring from Oaklahoma. An old-school cowboy with a knack for demolition apparently."

"A shuffle? Fuck that shit! We're already there!" Rei declared.

A shuffle was the term given to someone who became a certain rank in a system from transferring to another location. The actual rank of an assassin was not just based on their position in the state, but also on other factors like skills, target patterns (upper-rank or under-rank), the movement of the assassin (is she a nomad or does she stay stationary in one certain region) previous targets, and special certifications. This was a handy system as far as having the most skilled warriors be the top fighters. However, if a prospect were fighting her way up the charts, it would prove to be very difficult for her when sometimes, she could be denied her title when someone of more prowess, dexterity, and bounties under his belt could break in line by mere experience. However, this never unnerved Asuka, as she too was a shuffle who moved from California to Texas.

"Where was this Alamo last located?" Asuka spoke.

"He was last seen in a wooded region a couple miles away from the Austin county line. A place called Hellwood. We haven't seen Alamo personally but numerous of his associates have been spotted going down county roads around in the Hellwood area. If you really want Alamo, then I advise you be swift and look for his biker friends. You have probably twenty-four hours to claim the bounty hunter as yours. After that, the new guy will be your next target."

"I will do it." Asuka spoke. "I will find him."

Eugene sent some links, "Here is Alamo's file then. He is a skilled marksman with over thirty kills under hils belt and five times that in successful captures during his bounty hunter days. His weapon is a modified shotgun he calls Bushido del Paso. His last known kill was a few months ago. But do not underestimate him. This guy is a very powerful hunter specialized in hunting humans for a paycheck long before you joined the UAA. He also has powerful friends that are not to easily be messed with. I advise exercising extreme caution and discretion. And as soon as you enter his current territory, call me so that we may prepare a squad for proper extraction. Aside from that, I simply wish you luck. Go forth, Team Jigoku. And may there be victory in your future."

"Thank you, Eugene." Rei turned off the webcast.

At that moment, everything changed.

Asuka immediately finished her breakfast, slipped on a pair of jeans over her boxers, and started packing things. Rei burst into a fit of energy and dropped her chips. She ran out the room and called out to Steve from the second floor. "STEVE! SHIFT IT! WE'RE ACTIVE! I REPEAT WE ARE NOW ACTIVE!"

"NOW?" Steve yelled back

"YEAH, NOW! TUCK AND ROLL MOTHERFUCKER!"

"Shit!"

Asuka swiftly and briskly zipped up her suitcase and bags. She always had her affairs ready for when the time had come. Rei scrambled all over the motel room, grabbing objects and throwing things into more things. Goliath lifted his head but kept to his spot, much to Rei's chagrin. "Damnit, dog! Move!" Rei stepped over the large black beast and threw clothes into suitcases.

Steve, covered in grease, ran to the door, "What all do I need to get?"

Rei pointed and commanded, "I got your stuff. You go back out and worry about the wheels!" Rei followed him downstairs with stuffed luggage in tow. Asuka continued to store away the portable stove, the pots and pans, the cold goods in the cooler, and the proper toiletries in their respective little containers. The motels towels stayed because they had plenty alerady, but the soaps and toilet paper went with them. Asuka stored Goliath's dogfood in another bag, despite the look her companion expressed, a silent question of, "Can't we just leave that behind and pretend it was an accident?" Asuka, much to her reluctance, packed the food anyway. She hated it for her dog, but she wanted her team to be prepared for anything, including if they had to live in the car for a couple of days.

Less than an hour later, the motel room looked like no one had been there. Aside from the faint little stains that contributed their milestone visit, There was virutally no trace of Team Jigoku's presence. Rei threw a few bills down at the motel office and declared the group officially checked out. Team Jigoku were now on the move in a green, amalgamated, muscle car tearing down the strip.

Rei drove the car while Asuka sat in the front passenger seat. Steve sat in the back with Goliath, who stuffed his head out the window. A cooler and a bag of chips sat in the floor board behind Asuka which Steve used as a makeshift desk a lot of the time.

Steve cleaned himself up with citrus degreaser, handy-wipes, and bottles of water, much to his dismay. Rei refused to let him take a shower after he finished tweaking the great Nomad. Therefore, he had to improvise.

Rei had her wedge-sandal foot down on the pedal and her rage against any other motorist on the road. They were on a timeline to reach Austin and she was pulling out all stops to make it there. "YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!" She swerved past a work truck and a minivan and sped up in front of them. Steve protested, "Easy, Rei! We're not exactly inconspicuous in this thing!"

"Shut up! We're going to make it so help me God!"

"It is no major problem, Rei. You do not have to rush yourself." Asuka reassured her.

"What do you mean, woman? You're an assassin! He's the next target! We got a job to do! You have a job to do!"

"Yes, this is true." Asuka argued, "But it will not be the end of the world if I do not make it. If the man from Oaklahoma becomes the next rank, then I could simply fight him."

Rei growled, "Asuka, you have a reputation to uphold! What's it gonna look like if you choose to pass up on this? What about your warrior code! You've already said you would do this!"

"Yes, and I will. I am also driven by logic and common sense. We don't need to overwhelm ourselves with this mission. We must keep our heads on our shoulders, not through the windshield. And we need to be aware of the possibility, in all its forms, that we may not score this one. We are about to drive for six hours to look for a man affiliated with a biker gang that is probably living in the woods. He may not even still be there. I will not relent on my journey, but you two may have to come to terms with things possibly going awry."

"Oh please, he'll be there!" Rei aggerssively pressed Asuka with her confidence, "If he's a Texan meth dealer with a gang for friends, he won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Not if there's money in this. The only reasons why he may not be where he is supposed to be is if either he got warning and left town, he got busted, or he got killed by someone else. Possibly by his own lab. Even then, the UAA would've caught wind of his death by now. They would have to have. If they didn't, then I question their methods. But we'll find out soon enough, won't we?"

"Rei does have a point." Steve spoke from the back, "But even if this does fall through, we still have plenty of cash to room up for a while until Eugene sends the next match."

"This is also true. I just felt that perhaps traveling this far South on a mere whim is a bit...drastic."

"Drastic nothing!" Rei scoffed, "Drastic was moving from California all the way to Texas, even though you started in Cali, which I only went along with because Eugene said that Texas ranked matches were apparently good for the resume! Kinda late to tell me when something is drastic!"

"She got you there, A." Steve shrugged.

Asuka retreated to her mental brooding ground, where she contemplated, once again, on the incident the night before. She discreetly fiddled with the 51st Legion card in her pocket as she wondered. For the 51st to track her, they would have to have followed her, like Albert Hollow, from the convention. Whether they still have any information on her or not, or if they still planned on following her, were issues she had a feeling she would be touching up on sometime soon.

"Hey, Steve, do we have a profile on Kamikaze?" Asuka asked.

"A profile, yes. We have a small membership one for the sake of using the website. If you mean a major showcase of Jigoku Tabi, then no. I never published your image online. Why do you ask?"

"Can the UAA dispense any information regarding the death of an assassin openly, or is that confidential?"

Steve looked up from his laptop and thought for a moment, "Depends. Some systems will allow that, some won't. It's a matter of politics and behavior I suppose. Here in Texas, yes, for the most part, assassins can inquire about the death of other assassins and can even see evidence regarding a kill. However, it's a very shaky situation. Assassins cannot use the information to track down other assassins. You're not supposed to anyway. If you're still concerned about the Hollow thing, I would have to say that I doubt that Hollow used the UAA to find you because he was rogue."

"Yes, you're right." Asuka thought as she watched the scenery go by, "I'm just thinking of something."

Asuka was still concerned about the issue regarding the 51st Legion, as well as any other potential fighter, catching them off guard. Asuka was fairly secure in her position, however, there was always that possibility of someone coming after them. And there was not much she, Rei, or Steve could do about it. That was very much the truth. But she worried how big the situation may be if certain organizations were spying on them. Besides, Rei and Steve put their lives on the line when they volunteered to become Asuka's support crew. They always ran the risk of being killed in action, despite not being killers themselves. And despite their flaws, Asuka valued her crew very much.

Hellwood, TX: The Devilman's Diner.

A flock of five Bastards roared and rambled on around the pool tables, knocking balls, drinking beers, and enjoying their evening. Burly, red-skinned, leather-and-jean-clad muscle men with wrath on their breath and the call of the wild stewing in their lungs among all the smoke and scar tissue from substance abuse of all kind.

"Another round!" The leader called out.

A waitress shuffled over with a tray of five cold Caballeros. The Bastards happily snatched them and pumped themselves full of alcohol once again. The laughter bellowed. Balls clacked. And the music kept playing.

One of the Bastards made himself comfortable at the bar with a line of other locals. He drank his beer and messed with his cellphone, punching numbers and checking text messages. Friends. Family. Contacts. The weekend agenda. The trips to make. The next head on the list. Pics of that one guy he and his friends had a "party" with that really should disappear but his pride hesitated on the delete button every time he came across them.

"Miss, you can't smoke in here." A bartender called out.

The Bastard shifted his attention to the woman two seats to his left. A long-haired brunette with a tan and an unlit cigarette pressed between her lips and a lighter posed in front of it, waiting for the order. She rolled her eyes upon hearing the guy's words and plucked the stick from her mouth and muttered. "Can't smoke anywhere these days, can I?"

"Amen, sister. Fuckin Nazis these people are." The Bastard ranted. "Last I checked this was a free fuckin country. Since when did the gorvernment have a right to our lungs!" He eyed the young woman. She was no local. Not anyone he's seen before. Chances were, she was someone from out of town.

"So." the Bastard casually inquired, "What's your business around here?"

The girl cooly replied, "My friends and I are lookin to party tonight. We have cash, we just need a place to go and stuff to go nuts with."

"What kind of stuff?" the Bastard mused.

"Stuff. Alcohol...maybe some green...you know...stuff."

"Ahhh, I see. So where you going?"

"To a friend's house first. After that, I don't know."

"Sounds like fun." the Bastard grinned. "So...what all stuff you looking for?"

"I dunno. Weed. Maybe some yayo. Who knows? What's it to you?"

The Bastard offered, "Might have some connections. You never know. You got some LB?"

The girl looked the man in the eye and slyly pulled a few bills from out of her shirt. The LB dollars sat proudly and wickedly between polished fingertips. "Wait a sec." she squeezed the cash in her fist, "Why am I telling you all this? How can I trust you? For all I know, you could be a narc."

The Bastard smiled and laughed, "Trust me." he smiled wide and pointed to the Bastard symbol on his vest. "I got no interests with the law."

"You holdin?"

"Maybe."

"What chu got?"

"A bit of green and some speed. Not much cuz it's my personal stash, but I can get more whenever I feel like."

"That's good to hear." the girl kept her cool demeanor.

"Wait." the Bastard stopped. "How do I know you're not a cop? You know you have to tell me or else it's entrapment."

"I'm not. But you don't have to deal with me either. I could easily take my money somewhere else."

The girl slid off the bar stool with her purse and money in hand. The Bastard called out, "Hey, wait! Where ya going?"

The girl called back. "Out for a smoke. Should you choose to come with me and talk more, that's up to you!" She cooly and casually made her way to the door, slightly shaking her ass with each stride. The Bastard admired her from behind as she exited the place with a stir of lust disrupting the usual rowdy demeanor and spreading throughout his being. He had to have those tits and ass, those lips and those thighs, and whatever that followed. Only good times could come from it. Would it matter is he really couldn't trust her? One single girl? The worst case scenario, she would simply have to disappear.

A shot of Jack later and the Bastard parted the doors to step outside. The girl was leaning up against a corner post and smoking a cigarette. With a tap and a blow of smoke she welcomed him, "So, you wanna do some business?"

"Maybe."

The girl dropped the remaining butt and stepped on it. "Let's go to my car."

"Alright then."

The Bastard followed the girl to a red clusterfuck of a muscle car. "That's quite the ride you got there, sweetie." He tried to get the model right in his head but there were no label

"Thank you. Daddy got it for me as a graduation present."

"Your daddy's got nice taste."

The head of a large black dog popped out of the back seat and barked fiercely.

"Nice security system." the Bastard mused.

"You have no idea."

The dog snarled growled for a minute.

"You mind?"

"Goli! Stop that! Down, boy! Down!"

The dog bared his canines for a moment but retreated his head back into the car. The girl trotted to the driver's side door and climbed in. The Bastard followed her gesture to the passenger side.

Click!

Click!

ZRRRRRRRRRRM!

"GRRRRRRR!"

"What the FUCK!" the Bastard cried out.

A long, fat, blue beam of light blinded his eyes and singed the stubble off his chin and neck. It wasn't touching him but the proximity was too close for comfort. Way to close.

"Don't move." the girl ordered.

"What the fuck is this!"

"You move, you die!" a guy's voice struck the Bastard from behind.

"Do you realize what the fuck you're doing?" the Bastard hissed.

"Yes. We do." the girl assured the biker boy. "Now tell us about Alamo!"

"Alamo?"

"Yes, Alamo! Where is he?"

"I don't know what you're talking about?"

"Yes, you do. We know he's with the Bastards! Where is he?"

"FUCK YOU!"

"GRRRRRRRRRRRR!"

ZRRRRRRRRRRM!

"AAAAAAAH!"

The blue beam singed skin now.

"Tell us!"

"Fuck you!"

The Bastard struggled for the car door but the beam confined him to his position without it melting his jugular.

"I don't know!"

"Bullshit! If you've got drugs, you know Alamo! Where is he?"

"I'm a new guy! I don't know!"

"Liar! Those patches say otherwise! Don't lie to me! I hate being lied to!" the girl's voice growled wickedly. A fierce kick in the crotch sent pain throughout his body and took every inch of strength in him not to lurch forward into the hot blade.

"Start talking or you'll be leaving this place in our trunk!"

The Bastard fumbled around for his phone and pulled up his address book. He rapidly tapped the "down" button until the name "AL" appeared in large letters.

"HERE!" he shoved the phone in the proxmity of the girl's face. "THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT, ISN'T IT?"

The girl grabbed the phone and studied it. "Hmmm...What do you think?"

"We don't have much of a choice." the male voice spoke. "A lead's a lead."

"A?"

A silent agreement from the Bastard's captor.

"Set up the GPS."

"What do we do with him?"

A song. The phone's ringtone. Someone was calling. The Bastard kicked the phone from the girl and answered it, "HOSS! WE'RE UNDER ATTA-"

ZRRRRRRM!

SPLSSSSHHHHHHH!

"FUCK! ASUKA!"

CLICKIT!

THUD!

KRMP!

The body hit the ground and the door shut behind it.

"FUCKING A, ASUKA!" Rei cursed as blood covered nearly the whole passenger interior. She threw the phone in the back and turned the engine roaring into life. She shifted into reverse and pulled out, only to kick the vehicle into drive and plow out of the parking lot.

"Fucking bastard bled like a stuck pig!" Rei cursed as she sent the Nomad into great nowhere once again. Steve scrambled and entered the address into the GPS system. Asuka slipped into the front seat and wiped the blood off the inside of the windshield.

"You are so washing this car later, you realize that?" Rei growled.

A mile away, a pack of angry Bastards gazed upon the body of their fallen comrade. The fearless leader commanded, "Get the footage from Bert and call up Shaw. We ride!"